Heshbon Hanefesh Meeting of the Library Minyan

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Attendance: Jon Friedman, Robert Braun, Sandra Braun, Lillian Gelberg, Teri Cohan Link, Kathleen Schulweis, Bob Mendelsohn, Stephanie Blatsos, Jonathon Rotter, Dianne Shershow, Seth Schulweis, Debbie Rich, Joel Grossman, Fran Grossman, Sandra Lepson, Ron Andiman, Bob Roosth, Diane Roosth, Scott Taryle, Shulamit Wities, Norm Garr, Menachem Wities, Henry Morgen, Annette Berman, Anita Happel Steve Leventhal, Ruth Sohn, Judy Weinstock, Allen Weinstock, Steve Spronz, Abby Harris, Lida Baker, Avi Havivi, Sandey Fields, Fred Landau, Carl Sunshine, Kathy Rosenblatt, Barry Rosenblatt Meeting Called to Order: 10:12am – breakfast was served from 9:45am. Abby Harris gave a Dvar Torah Seth Schulweis and Debbie Rich ran the meeting, a brainstorming session on Best Moments or What Worked Well and What to Change in the Library Minyan. Rules were set to let everyone say what the feel without having responses. (The minutes were taken to get the ideas down of speakers, no names attributed.) The first statement was that the number of attendees was a good surprise. Only 18-20 people RSVP’d but about 40 people came. Shabbat simchas like yesterday’s (Ufruf of Joel Goldstein) shows we are a living breathing community. But there is a concern that we are dying. At the meeting there was only 1 person under 30. The young don’t feel welcome in leadership. We don’t see little kids running around in services. We need to open up our minds and hearts and bring in the youth. There is a desire for more spirituality in services. Services are very head oriented, want to reach the heart and soul. The davening is more rote than kavanah. There is tremendous beauty in having different people lead, but changes makes it difficult for everyone to join in when the nusach is different, specifically at the Kedusha. There’s a tension between the individual expression and communal experience. How do we regulate or set parameters on davening? What areas can be flexible – open for creativity, and which areas not flexible? We need a manual for the Gabbiim and Shaliach Tzibors. The Founding Principles were enumerated for those not familiar with the start of the Minyan. The Library Minyan was started by a group of young Rabbis and knowledgeable adults with young children who wanted their children with them in services. Rabbi Pressman suggested they use his Library to hold services so the kids would not disturb the sanctuary service. They started at 10am and finished at noon. The Minyan is no longer that small intimate group where kids and babies are easily tolerated. We are a congregation within the larger congregation. We are stale, except that we are getting a little more social with Kiddushes and Friday night dinners. One way to shake things up might be to have the young people sit at the front of the room and the older ones sit towards the back. It is hard to get teenagers to shul without their peers coming. It would be nice to get the pre-teens to young teens involved in the service by having them lead Adon Olam, or Ein Kelohanu and Adon Olam, has Shabbats for teens or teen kiddishes. A “Candy Man” was also mentioned. Have kids open/close the Ark and other activities on a regular basis to involve the young pre-Bar/Bat and post Bar/Bat mitzvah kids. How do we get a variety of daveners – diverse styles? The Gabaiim have a hard time getting new people and the teenagers are necessarily interested; they like to sleep on Shabbat. It was suggested we have a Library Minyan list to include emails and the children’s names. Then a question came up of who is considered a member. Suggestion made that if we want to increase participation then it might be advantageous to relax the requirements of a member and include all who say they are members on the membership application. Why do people go to other minyanim? Ikar, Shtebal and Pico Egal have full Torah readings and they have lively davening. In general they are younger, have a more conscious & intentionality process. Bnai David has good child care and the kids are either in childcare or with their parents. The kids are brought in at Ein Kelohanu to sit on the bimah (and there is a candy man). The Minyan is now run on inertia. We need to spend more time on effective electronic communications. The younger members are more used to electronic communications, we need to incorporate this into our process. We don’t have an ongoing structure – need to create (re-create) the structure. We may need to admit that we are in an inherent change – growing older and can’t be what we used to be or what other Minyanim are. Historically the Minyan had Shabbat lunches monthly at members’ homes. They were pot luck and issues of the Minyan were discussed. Now we have Kiddushes but we don’t discuss issues. Can we figure out a way to start up lunches at homes and resurrect regular meetings. Abby offered her home after her remodel is finished. We also held meetings on Shabbat after services before going into Kiddush. This could be resurrected also. People are intimidated to lead in the Minyan. We all need to lighten up, not be so critical. Do we really need quality vs. variety. We need a committee that would reach out to potential daveners, support them with resources: tutors/mentors, tapes, or training. We need written rules for daveners. If we have them, how do we enforce them? We need someone to keep track of the Bar/Bat Mitzvahs and followup with them to keep them involved in leading services, reading Torah or Haf-Torah. What constitutes a simcha? Does a 90 th birthday constitute a simcha where we can request full Crea?   People naturally select the demographics they want – to be with young people, to be in a lay led minyan, etc. We need to figure out who we are and what we want of this Minyan. We have a traditional davening, but some of us would like a booklet created to use for alternative prayers. We’re not taking full advantages of the resources of the shul and we’re not acknowledging that we are part of a larger organization. We have not asked or insisted on the shul to help us in any way. There is a desire for more spirituality, finding ways that are moving, opening us up to prayer; open us up in and out of services. Some come to the minyan for other reasons than davening. We need to find ways to help people open up and share. We need to be open to creativity, encouraging at certain points in the service into Kavanah whether it is a melody before prayers of meditation. What are we encouraging variety for?
  1. Open hearts?
  2. Open understanding?
  3. Or something else?
We need to encourage the younger members to lead; let them know there are people to meet with who will guide them and encourage them in leading. We can make tapes and meet one-on-one. Everyone in the room needs to make a commitment to relax and open up. We need to not just bite our tongues toward leaders, but go up to them and say Yasher Koach, no matter how we feel about their davening. If we don’t do this, we won’t get new blood. When the Library Minyan started and for many years, it was very, very independent. Now we are part of the shul and that has put restrictions on us. We can no longer have pot luck kiddishes in the shul like we did in Café Keshet. We didn’t cook but we could buy cookies and jarred herring or gefilte fish balls, etc. This was an easy way for members to be involved. What can we do to bring back some easy involvement? How should we welcome Rabbi Kligfeld and his family into the Library Minyan? Going back to the previous question, one way to get people involved is to start a Kiddish committee who come Thursday night or Friday morning to prepare the food. This would cut down the cost too. Many shuls have Sisterhood prepare the Kiddishes, maybe we can do it here. Kathy Rosenblatt volunteered to work on the committee. We’re losing our community feeling. Would like to see P’Zukeh D’Zimra be led by people who know how to lead that service. We use to have people who led with more musical davening. Now some use the daily prayer nusach. Would like to see us institutionalize having Kiddush led from the Bimah so everyone can join in; then those who want to stay and talk can and others can go in for food. Now Kiddush is disorganized and not everyone hears the prayer. In the beginning the survival of the minyan depended on everyone showing up; now not so much. How do we recreate that feeling of needing everyone? Ways to build the next generation: pay teenagers to read Torah; start a Junior Cantor Program, find other ways to get teenagers interested in coming on Shabbat. Yes we are intimidating but we have resources to help people get over their intimidation. We need a way to let members know this. Pico Egal has full crea and guidelines for Hazanim. They start at 9:15am and finish at 12noon. They have a structure holding everything together and they list where there’s flexibility and where there’s no flexibility. They were very vibrant when meeting in living rooms, and now they feel they are less vibrant holding services in Beth Am’s Library. Size does make a difference. How do we reach out to Pico Egal – joint Shabbat services or Haggim or Kiddishes? Do we reach out to Ikar and Shtebal and Pico Egal on other occasions than the Haggim where the full shul combines with them. We need to work on our communications using email:
  1. semi-monthly email Minyan information
  2. Inform families with kids when simchas are happening so the kids can be involved especially if there is candy involved.
  3. For enrichment purposes
  4. Reach out to the kids
We should use Rabbi Kligfeld and his expertise on how to get teenagers involved. We should ask Rabbi Kligfeld to come to one our meetings so he can learn who we are today, not who we were. Then he could bring his expertise and opinions in also. We have lost a sense of community. We used to have Sukkah Walks. We should go back to the pot luck kiddishes even if it’s outside the shul. We used to have the Rabbis in the Minyan setup guidelines for studying religious decisions. We should use them more or use the Clergy of the Shul work with us. It’s important to have them involved with us. Recommendations (and seconded): Have functional committees on the following topics (there may be more)
  1. Steering Committee
  2. Email Communications Committee
  3. Newsletter Committee
  4. Outreach Committee
  5. Kids & Teens Committee
  6. Ritual Committee – includes Davening issues
  7. Reach out to the older members of the congregation
The committees should include a diverse group of people who are interested in the topic and include the young people and older members. Let’s try to come up with some creative readings for the Prayer for our Country, Prayer for Israel, Peace – it’s become too rote. At Kiddish we should all make a habit and go up to people we don’t know and say hello to them and find out about them. The Library Minyan is no longer a Havurah but a congregation, why don’t we create Havurot with intergeneration members and make them of people who are not friends. We could people together based on specific interests, hobbies, etc. We need to acknowledge that the members have aged and we need to go through a process of accepting this and moving forward. How can we buy new chairs for the times when we open the doors behind the regular chairs. They are so uncomfortable and makes it an uninviting atmosphere for those who have to sit on them. What if we scheduled a mini-retreat and get some experts to study the art of meditation and prayer. We learn to consciously move into a spiritual space. Bring back the program of having Friday night dinner in different members’ homes, invite members who aren’t known by the host. If we have a Friday night dinner program in homes, maybe there could be a topic of discussion, then everyone could meet at the shul at the end and talk about the topic together with Rabbi Kligfeld, Rabbi Leider or another Rabbi. We want to involve young people, but haven’t heard anything that defines us as the Library Minyan. How are we going to be different? Do we want to be a specific type of Minyan or just a gathering? When we get a Minyan list it should include the kids’ names. What’s next: consolidate minutes; set a structure; come up with a Mission statement and set goals; create action committees. The committees should include the teenagers and new members.
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